ahead for Fishing
This article was originally
published in the New Zealand Fishing News December 2005 edition.
complaints by environmental groups that unconstrained commercial
fishing and poor management is threatening many marine species
is yet another shot in a long list of credible attacks on
the way the Ministry of Fisheries refuses to stand up to
commercial fishers and the flawed ideology of the property
rights based Quota Management System (QMS).
Of major concern
to recreational fishers is the Ministry of Fisheries have
recently changed the way they allocate catches between commercial
and non-commercial fishers to a "proportional system".
The reason appears
to be so that recreational and customary catches can be
further reduced while excessive commercial catches are maintained
system is causing a direct reallocation of recreational
and customary fish to commercial fishers.
of the self-serving praises the Ministry of Fisheries heap
upon their creation, the truth is the QMS has failed to
deliver the promised rebuild in many inshore fisheries.
This is simply because the same Ministry has failed to constrain
commercial fishers to the levels it's own scientists recommended
at the outset!
The reason for
all of the above appears to be that the Ministry have given
such powerful rights
to the fishing industry they now simply do whatever the
industry says, rather than risk being sued by them.
of Proportionalism – A case study
To understand the
dangers of proportionalism we need look no further than the
history of snapper
8, the west coast fishery from North Cape to Wellington,
and this year's appalling fishery management decisions.
In 1986 commercial
fishers were issued 1330 tonnes of quota in snapper 8. At
time the Ministry believed constraining commercial fishers
to this initial quota would allow the fishery, which had been
depleted by excessive pair trawling since the 1970's, to rebuild.
It is not surprising
that commercial fishers soon found ways to maintain high catches
and exceed the original quota.
The activities of
the Quota Appeals Authority, which issued additional quota
fishers who were unhappy with their initial allocations, allowed
the total snapper 8 quota to increase above sustainable levels.
On top of this commercial
fishers legally deemed tonnes of catch in excess of quota
over the years. The Ministry failed to see the danger or act
to mitigate the risk posed by these excesses.
According to the Ministry snapper
8 also suffers among the highest levels of commercial high
grading and dumping of snapper. The Ministry estimate the
total illegal activities of commercial fishers amounts to
around 150 tonnes per annum in snapper 8.
Commercial catch in SNA8 since 1987
snapper catch in Snapper 8 (SNA8) in tonnes
allowed for dumping, high grading and non-reporting. This number
also incudes incidental mortality so may
overestimate illegal activity.
Appeals Authority issued quota
As of last year commercial
fishers had removed around 6000 tonnes of snapper in excess of their
initial annual quota entitlement in snapper 8 since 1987. Considering
the Ministry has allowed these excesses to continue for almost 20
years, it beggars belief that they now seem perplexed as to why
the fishery has not rebuilt.
Recreational fishers catches
have been cut three times in this same period of time. The bag limit
was reduced from 30 to 20 in the early 1990's. In 1995 voluntary
cuts by way of reduced bag limits to 15 snapper, increased minimum
size limits and a reduction of hook numbers on longlines in SNA
8 reduced non-commercial catch by around 26%, action which has conserved
800 - 1600 tonnes since 1995. The latest 2005 decision reduces recreational
catches by a further 15%.
In September the Minister
made a proportional decision and cut commercial quota, customary
and recreational allowances by 15% each. He explained it by saying,
"To be fair to all New Zealanders, I've decided these reductions
should be shared across all sectors."
While the Minister may
think these proportional reductions are fair, what is obvious is
that proportionalism punishes those who conserve, and rewards those
who waste and squander.
It is hard
to imagine a decision that would be more unfair!
After this year's decision
commercial fishers still have almost the same 1330 tonne quota they
were issued in 1986. Their new quota is 1295 tonnes, or a reduction
of only 2.5% from the original level.
Recreational fishers have
had their catches reduced by around 40% over the same timeframe.
When the unfairness of
proportional allocations were discussed at a hui in July Stan Crothers
, the deputy CEO of MFish, categorically stated that MFish "accept
that those who cause the damage should pay."
He went on to say, "It
is true, the way we manage fisheries right now there are not a great
deal of incentives for recreational fishers or Maori customary fishers
to conserve, other than their belief that the fish stocks should
be in a healthy state. We do need a fisheries management planning
framework where contributions are truly reflected."
While the Ministry realise
there are major unresolved issues in the way they are implementing
proportional allocations, it is obvious they find it easier to continue
to take fish off the non-commercial sector, than be fair or honest
and face the consequences of their mismanagement of the commercial
of fisheries is a recent policy construct of the Ministry of Fisheries.
It is not a mechanism included in the Fisheries Act 1996.
option4 is certain that
it is a means by which the Ministry will allocate the minimum possible
tonnage of fish to non-commercial fishers to avoid compensation
issues for the Crown. The snapper 8 decision also shows how quickly
the Ministry will reduce recreational catches to help prop up excessive
Under a proportional system
the Ministry effectively remove themselves from allocation decisions.
Non-commercial fishers will soon be asked to develop Fisheries Plans
"collaboratively" with the fishing industry to resolve any issues.
This is frightening, if
the Ministry with all of it's resources cannot control commercial
fishers, what hope will an under-resourced non-commercial sector
have against the might of the commercial fishing sector under a
proportional system? None!
Proportionalism is a dangerous
experiment, with a very suspect background. It could quickly result
in the people of this country losing all of their fishing rights
as described in section 21 of the Fisheries Act.
Proportionalism is totally
opposite to what was promised to non-commercial fishers when the
QMS was introduced in 1986. The Minister of Fisheries at the time,
Colin Moyle, made a statement we now refer to as Moyle's
"Preference will be given to non-commercial fishing in areas readily
accessible to and popular with the public, where a species is
not sufficiently abundant to support both non-commercial and commercial
Recreational fishers must
also argue that setting the non-commercial allocations when both
recreational and customary catch have been driven down to such low
levels by excessive commercial fishing and poor management is so
unfair it is completely unacceptable.
Many Maori now realise
that almost all of their fishing is categorised as recreational
fishing. Therefore, where current management allows fish stocks
to be driven to low levels, they fully understand how it adversely
affects their ability to feed their families.
hui have been held in Northland since May to discuss non-commercial
Progress has been steady
with the most recent hui confirming the need to work together to
achieve the common goal of "more fish in the water"
"Kia maha atu nga ika i roto te wai" .
Both customary and recreational
interests have been well represented in the forum called the Hokianga
Accord. Another meeting is scheduled for early in the New Year.
For more information please call 09 8186205.
In recent fisheries management
proposals MFish has reinforced their policy preference to use a
proportional system when allocation decisions are being made, almost
using it as a default despite its lack of support in law and obvious
unfairness. option4 will continue applying pressure on the Ministry
so that recreational concerns about proportionalism are addressed.
option4 sent a submission
to MFish in August about the proportional allocation system.
Stan Crothers assured us
that MFish would be willing to discuss any outstanding issues after
October 1st . option4 is currently attempting to arrange a meeting
with the new Minister, Jim Anderton, Stan Crothers and the CEO John
Glaister to see if the issue can be progressed.
All non-commercial fishers
must remember the QMS was developed purely to constrain commercial
fishers who had depleted most of the inshore shared fisheries. The
QMS has failed in many fisheries because of its poor implementation
and the lack of proper management of commercial fishers by the Ministry
Commercial fishers have
argued that unless allocation decisions, particularly cuts in catch,
are made proportionally, they may take the Minister to court. The
possibility of losing has obviously frightened the Ministry of Fisheries
to the point where they are currently cowering behind proportional
allocation as a preferred policy simply to placate the fishing industry.
Commonsense and any semblance of fairness have gone out the window.
However, none of this has ever been legally tested in court. Previous
court rulings have been clear that the Minister is not bound to
using a proportional approach, it appears the Ministry may be jumping
option4 are committed
to combating proportional allocation and reversing the losses recreational
fishers have suffered because of it. It is not fair, does not address
failed management, does not have the support of non-commercial fishers
and most importantly has not been adequately consulted on. Until
such time the Ministry of Fisheries deliver a credible consultation
process, and address concerns expressed over the last five years,
proportional allocation will continue to be viewed as a very real
danger to people's ability to fish for food into the future.
The full option4 submissions
including the proportional allocation document are available online
and can be downloaded for you to read at
Reports from the recent
hui are online at
If you value the work
option4 is doing please use the secure online facility available
here and invest in your fishing future.